“There is a powerful tool we have not utilized as much. That tool is the diaspora,” Prime Minister Andrew Holness told an audience attending last month’s awards gala hosted by the Jamaican-American Bar Association in South Florida.
Jamaica has some 2.9 nationals living on the island, but another 350,000 who identify as Jamaicans are estimated to reside in the southeast United States. The diaspora, according to the prime minister, can be used to greatly assist Jamaica’s development.
During his address, Holness touched on several other issues, ranging from Jamaica’s financial situation, lobbying for constitutional change which would allow diaspora members to vote and contest political office on the island, and crime and violence.
Up to the time of his Florida visit, over 1,400 had been killed in Jamaica during 2017. That’s up from some 1,350 murdered during 2016.
The image of Jamaica as a violent destination can discourage investment in the country, Holness added, as he called on Jamaicans overseas to help.
“You are a powerful voice,” the prime minister said, although he admitted that Jamaica
has not capitalized on that voice.
Holness, the function’s keynote speaker, also weighed in on the issue of climate change, including the impact of larger nations’ practices on countries like Jamaica.
“The issues surrounding climate change are real … and we small islands, we can’t afford to be trampled by big guys who are trying to determine whether or not this thing is real, yes or no,” he explained.
“… We are being affected by these astronomical weather events,” Holness added as he recalled hurricanes Irma and Maria, which smashed into the Caribbean recently, although Jamaica escaped direct impact.